The top of the mountain was quite barren and since the path to get up was now currently blocked off Joshua didn't have to worry about rushing ahead like he had been before. So they took the reprieve as a chance to take a break and eat lunch before diving into the actual dungeon. Joshua got straight to cooking some left over food for him and Lilly while she gave all of her pets some food including the ones she didn't usually have out all the time. She made sure to give Cinder a couple of the cocoons that the giant spider had made earlier. Then they all set down to eat, the entire time Joshua made sure not to pay attention to Cinder since watching her literally suck dry whatever was in the cocoons wasn't exactly appetizing.
By the time they had finished up their meal and were prepared to head to the entrance of the dungeon. Joshua stopped to take a look at his stats to see where he stood before he entered and he was happy on the progress he had made over the past week or so spent exploring the area.
Job – Aura User
Soul Beast – Fenrir
Stats (parenthesis number is the bonus stats from levels and Job) [Bracket numbers are skill modifiers]
Strength: 780 (72) = 852 x [1.3] = 1107.6
Vitality: 780 (72) = 852 x [1.3] = 1107.6 (2385.6 with aura hardening)
Dexterity: 780(72) = 852 x [1.3] = 1107.6
Intelligence: 780 (72) = 852 x [1.3] = 1107.6
Wisdom: 780 (72) = 852 x [1.3] = 1107.6
Will: 1200 (114) = 1314 x [1.3] = 1708.2
Luck 101 (0) = 101]
At this point his aura hardening was ridiculous and a monster would have to do a fairly devastating attack just to break through his defenses whenever he was in that state. All in all his stats were growing consistently and his will was making it easier and easier for him to be able to utilize his aura to the best effect. One other thing he noticed was the fact that his echo strike skill was getting close to leveling up and he was sure that would come in handy against whatever boss they had to face at the end of the dungeon if it leveled up in time, but he doubted that would be the case based off the amount of fighting they had done so far.
"Well are you ready to go Josh?" Lilly asked with Cinder and Tank both having shrunk down to a size where they could easily follow them down the stairway at the top of the center of the dungeon.
"Yep, let's go check the place out." Joshua said as he stretched for a bit before walking over to stand in front of the stairs and look down into the darkness that they slowly disappeared into. For a moment he was going to pull out a torch, but Cinder started glowing and made it easier for them all to see the path in front of them. "Well here goes nothing." He said before taking the first steps down with Lilly following close behind. Tank was put into her soul realm since he would take a while getting down the steps, but Cinder easily strode down ahead of them to light the way.
The stairs took a long time to go all the way down. In fact it took nearly ten minutes of constantly taking one step at a time for them to see anything other than stairs laid out before them. The light from the entrance behind them was becoming dim and seemed so far away when they turned to look. Joshua was surprised that they hadn't actually come across anything even with the long distance they had traveled. The walls were your basic tunnel walls with nothing to discern them from the rest of the ant hill. The stairs were simple stone steps that looked as if they hadn't been used in ages based off all the dirt and dust on them that hadn't had any signs of foot prints at all. Even the fact that there was no form of light such as torches anywhere on the path they took was a little unsettling. Most dungeons had at least some sort of sign that they were actually a dungeon to set them apart from your everyday cave.
Finally when the stairs came to an end and opened up into a small room that was different from anything else Joshua had seen in the ant hill up to that point the relief caused him to let out an audible sigh. The room was smaller compared to the rooms from the last dungeon they had gone to back in the marsh, but he highly doubted things would stick that way throughout the entire dungeon. Unlike previous dungeons this one didn't have several patterns on the walls or depictions of beast to set a certain mood for what was to come. Instead there was simply five doors laid out before them. Each door reached all the way to the ceiling and was more than large enough to be the entrance to another path forward.
There were no riddles, no directions, not even a hello to the entrance to the dungeon. There were simply five doors set out in front of them and Joshua had to choose which one to go down. In the end it was all up to luck this time around and Joshua highly doubted that any of the doors would lead them directly to their deaths. A dead end might be a possibility, but these dungeons weren't created to just toy with people and kill them. These dungeons were made to strengthen the human race and prepare them for something more in the future via a combination of the planet itself and the system's will. He highly doubted he would open a door that would lead to their deaths no matter what they did, but one path could definitely be harder than the other.
Joshua closed his eyes and tried to use an aura pulse to see as far down the path as he could view, but after seeing as far as his sight could go each path was exactly the same. They just went in different directions from one another before they went out of the range of Joshua's aura pulse. "Well which one should we choose?" Lilly asked looking a little perplexed at the dilemma.
"Well it seems as it doesn't particularly matter which one we choose in the end. All of them lead off into the unknown and there's not a single clue to base any choice on." Joshua said before he stepped forward and picked the door in the middle. "Let's just pick one and go forward, I'm fairly sure they probably all end up at the end of the dungeon anyways. If not we can figure out another way."
"Alright, but I hope we don't end up having to go down each and every path until we find the right one." Lilly said before following Joshua as they walked into the new tunnel. The first thing Joshua took notice of was the fact that unlike the previous paths they had taken before while descending into the dungeon there were actually stones along the wall that glowed slightly. It brightened up the room a little bit, but wasn't quite as overbearing as a lamp would have been in such a place. It was just strong enough for Joshua to make out his surroundings and avoid any traps if they happened to run into any.
The next thing Joshua noticed was the change in the texture on the floor and walls. The place didn't look like a dirty tunnel on the verge of collapsing anymore, but was paved with stone instead now. There still weren't any depictions on the wall, but considering the amount of ants they had faced up to this point Joshua was certain that the main challenge they would be up against would be different types of ants since it seemed to be the theme of the place. They might have to fight an aphid or something if they came across one fighting alongside the ants, but he highly doubted the ants would let any other type of bug in their territory. Outside of that Joshua had no idea what the strength of what they would be going up against would be.
Joshua led the way with Cinder staying extremely close to Lilly just in case anything tried to surprise them. At the moment she didn't have Tank out so she couldn't synchronize with him, so instead she had synchronized with cinder which made it easy for her to keep up with Joshua pace. They followed the new path for a long ways without any change in sight of their surroundings. It was the same old stone floor with glowing stones until they finally reached a door at the end of the path. This time around there weren't several doors to choose from, but instead there was only one selection they could make.
Looking over the door for a moment with both his eyes and his aura Joshua made sure there weren't any traps either on the door or the other side of it. He nodded towards Lilly and Cinder showing the coast was clear before he opened the door and headed into what at first looked like a similar path, but soon changed dramatically. At first they were surrounded in stone walls for a while before the walls that surrounded them stopped and the only things that continued were the ceiling above them and the floor they were walking on. The first thing Joshua did when he took notice of that fact was send out and aura pulse to see what was up ahead, but all he got was the ceiling and the floor continuing for a long ways surrounded in emptiness from the sides.
They cautiously walked forward to get a view of what was beyond the walls and why the walls had suddenly stopped and the sight before them was breath taking. Joshua quickly figured out why his aura pulse had only seen emptiness beyond the walls along the path. The reason was simply because they were walking across a bridge that was so high in the air above the madness that went on below them. Joshua and Lilly stared in awe as large ant soldiers flew around a ways beneath them carrying larger loads than the worker ants to different areas below. At the very bottom of the place they could see an alarming amount of ant soldier moving from place to place as they seemed to be guarding what nearly looked like a wooden city. The place was filled with so many ants that Joshua knew if they tried to sneak through they would be caught in an instant.
Joshua could also see that there were a few regular worker ants that were carrying loads of stuff and milking some of the aphids. They were doing most of the work while the soldiers were clearly there to guard them while they got the work done. The last area only had two ant soldiers and they weren't even there to protect the other ants. This place on the other hand had just as many soldiers as workers and Joshua knew taking on thousands of ant soldiers was a death wish. It would take a lot of people to just put up a fight let alone clear the area and he wasn't sure if that's all the problems they would face.
Another thing he noticed was the pair of giant ants near what looked like an entrance to a special area and Joshua had the feeling that was probably their objective in the end, but they would definitely have to find another way of getting their if they wanted to make it in one piece. The larger ants were too far away for him to be able to observe them fully, but he knew they were definitely stronger and probably far more difficult to deal with than the average ant soldier. Joshua and Lilly slowly made their way across the bridge while viewing the lay out below them. Cinder was fairly quiet, but even she was nervous being around so many ants at a time. A hundred or so ants wouldn't have been so daunting compared to what they would be up against if they made one slip up.
Soon they reached the other side of the bridge and were met with another door that lead to the next area. Hopefully it would shine some light on what exactly they were supposed to do in this dungeon this time around. Going down there was definitely not an option that Joshua would choose.